The West Coast of Australia has hands down been my favourite trip to date. The vast grandeur of it all. Red dirt roads as far as the eye can see with a sparse population, taking ‘off the beaten track’ to a whole new level! Stunning beaches, amazing landscape and infinite deserts, what more could you want?
If you’ve always dreamed of hiring a camper van and hitting the open road on an epic adventure, now’s your chance. Mesmerising National Parks, fantastic surf, beautiful coastlines and rugged mountain ranges await.
But where do you start?
You will need at least three weeks to travel the West Coast. I’ve put together an itinerary for you, to give you a taste of what’s out there waiting for you! The Ultimate Roadie: The West Coast of Australia.
One of the best ways to see Australia’s West Coast is on a self-drive road trip in your own camper van but renting a vehicle in Australia can be quite expensive. To get great deals and discounts I recommend you use an agent specialised in campervan rentals. Rat pack travel organised our camper van through Travellers Autobarn. Rental companies tend to adjust their prices according to the seasons so try to use this to your advantage and rent off peak. The longer you rent a camper van, the cheaper the daily rent gets. Book in advance, availability of vehicles can determine the price. If there’s only a few left, the price will rise. Vehicle prices are not fixed, keep this in mind. If you look around you might be lucky enough to find promotional codes offering discounted rentals, I did!
Not many venture as far as the West Coast of Australia, however, it really encapsulates the stereotypical ‘Australia’ that tourists come to see. It’s easier to break the road trip into two different parts. Here are the destinations you must include to hit the deserted, pristine coastline, roads thousands of kilometres long, highways lined by red dirt and an overwhelming abundance of wildlife.
Part 1: Perth to Coral Bay
There are certainly a few hotspots worth traversing the odd thousand kilometres North West between Perth and Coral Bay. This is a part of the trip that involves a lot of driving. The long stretches of monotonous roads are worth enduring for the incredible scenery along the way.
A mere hour and a half drive from Perth is a small fishing and tourist town. Lancelin is known to lure in water sports lovers to test their abilities in world class conditions. It’s popular amongst keen anglers, snorkelers and divers. It’s home to the biggest sand dunes in Western Australia challenging sand boarders, bikers and dune buggy racing enthusiasts. Just beware, you’ll find sand in places you never knew existed! A sea of gigantic snow-white sand dunes stretch along the horizon, it’s magnificent. Hire a board at the entrance to the dunes for $5 and try your hand at snowboarding. I spent more time eating the sand rather than staying on the board. It’s great craic! Entry to the dunes is free and it’s open every day.
The Pinnacles are one of the natural wonders of Australia. These strange, much photographed pillars seem completely unworthy without geological understanding. The unique limestone pillars made from the harsh elements of wind, rain and a cementing agent (calcium) are worth visiting. After paying my dues I forged my way into the Pinnacle Park. I got to witness the infamous Pinnacles in all their glory. Tall ones, short ones, stubby ones, and skinny ones. Driving through the Pinnacles was like returning through a passage of time. People were randomly taking videos running, jumping and climbing like something out of Star Wars. Oh, if these Pinnacles could talk!
Port Gregory – Hutt Lagoon:
From the Pinnacles I drove into Geraldton to recuperate and recharge for the night. The next port of call was Port Gregory, home to the pink lake called Hutt Lagoon. It boasts a unique pink lake created by the presence of a carotenoid producing algae. Depending on the time of day, season and amount of cloud cover, the lake changes in colour. I visited mid morning and found this to be a good time. The dreamlike lake draws crowds from near and far. Have your cameras at the ready, locals and tourists alike will be vying for that perfect shot!
Kalbarri National Park:
Without a doubt Kalbarri National Park is one of the most astonishing parks I’ve visited in Australia. Dramatic gorges, long wide beaches and beautiful scenery makes for the perfect stopover. With sealed roads throughout, its one of the most-accessible parks, no need for a 4WD. Most people visiting the park will have based themselves at Kalbarri town itself as it’s only a short drive from the park entrance. Like almost all National Parks in Western Australia, Kalbarri National Park has an entrance fee. If you are exploring the West for an extended period of time it would be well worth it to buy a monthly/yearly park pass, great value for money. It’s important to note that there’s no camping within Kalbarri Park itself – no free camping, no paid camping. This means you’ll have to base yourself in the town. The caravan parks tend to fill up quickly, especially during school holidays and peak season, so I’d advise booking in advance where possible.
Kalbarri National Park is composed of both inland and coastal sections, the inland being the most popular. I covered this in one long day, my favourites being Nature’s Window and the Z bend lookout. Unfortunately, most hikes were closed due to extreme weather conditions of 40 degrees when I visited. No doubt though, I made the most of it and spent time at the beach planning for the trip ahead.
Denham, the infamous gateway for exploring the unbelievable Shark Bay World Heritage area. Self drive routes from Denham take you to some of Australia’s most amazing natural wonders including Monkey Mia. Monkey Mia is a popular tourist destination located 25 kilometres northeast of Denham. Head for Monkey Mia during feeding times and meet the wild bottlenose dolphins who have put this place on the map. Wild dolphins have been visiting the shoreline for over 50 years. I have very mixed feelings about this experience. While fascinating and exciting, it is a tourist trap. The dolphins are fed three times in the morning often drawing large crowds competing for that fish to feed the dolphins. If you hang around after the first feeding, people tend to leave giving a higher chance of you being chosen to feed the dolphins. However, this is an extremely long drive inland if this is something you’ve experienced before.
While making the trip to Coral Bay we passed through the town of Carnarvon known as the fruit and vegetable bowl of the North. We came across the cutest cactus garden in the horticultural district. This cool, unique spot is one of the local plantations front garden. It’s located on South river road, part of the Fruit Loop Drive Trail. We had a right auld laugh here. In season, you can buy fresh seasonal produce directly from roadside stalls.
At first, Coral Bay didn’t excite me. I had high expectations for this small coastal town. Many other travellers I’d met along the way raved about it. I’d just checked into my campsite and headed for Bills Bay, the main beach in town. Once I set foot on the beach my mind was instantly changed. The turquoise water, soft white sand and friendly locals had me trapped in their enraptured slow pace of life. The sweeping bay protected by the Ningaloo Reef was a snorkelling haven. It wasn’t all water-sports and basking in the sunshine, I jumped at the opportunity to join a sand buggy sunset adventure. It was the best sunset experience I’ve had yet. The incredible coastal scenery, riding up and down the enlarged dunes, spotting turtles off ‘turtle cliff’ and even out driving Conor in ‘Five Fingers Reef’.
Coral Bay is an idyllic little beach town in the middle of nowhere. It’s no surprise it draws people of all ages and backgrounds as there’s so many amazing things to see and do. It is a perfect spot to swim with whale sharks or manta rays and from June to October whales migrate through the area. I made the mistake of coming the wrong time of year. Make sure to head down to the dunes for sunset over the bay, a nature lovers delight.
My original plan was to continue to Exmouth, however, an emergency cyclone warning was issued leading me to make my way South West. 1,287 kilometres later and I began part 2 of my travels.
Part 2: Perth to Hyden
Just two hours South of Perth, Bunbury is another destination where you can befriend and interact with wild bottlenose dolphins and learn about marine life at the newly redeveloped Dolphin Discovery Centre. Peruse Bunburys boutique shops and cafes before heading to back beach for a spot of surfing.
While Australia doesn’t have many quirky traditions or attractions – Gnomesville is one of them. Thousands of gnomes have migrated from all over Australia and around the world. It’s entertaining to see the gnomes playing cricket, climbing plants, partying gnomes and retired gnomes. You name it, it’s there! From water-sports to music festivals, street art and heritage trails there’s plenty to see and do. Take in the views from Malston Hill Lookout. Formerly a working lighthouse, the multi level viewing platform boasts 360 degree views of Koombana Bay and Bunbury Harbour.
A firm favourite of mine. Busselton is the gateway to the Margaret River region. A luscious area filled with food, and craft beer and wine being a daily affair. The Busselton Jetty is a famous landmark extending 1,841 metres out to sea standing at one of the longest in the Southern Hemisphere and the second longest jetty in the world. How many jetty’s have a passenger train on them? Hop aboard the old steam engine and make your way to the underwater observatory. The iconic Busselton Jetty draws crowds all year round.
Things to do in Busselton;
- Skydive over the jetty. What better way to get good visuals of the entire jetty than from 14,000 feet above.
- Bask in the sun at the Busselton foreshore: a hive of activity for families and beach bums.
- Cast a line: fishing off Busselton Jetty is a popular pastime.
A few minutes drive from the bustling town of Yallingup towards Margaret River you’ll find amazing views of the Indian Ocean. Head on further to take a refreshing dip in the Injidup Natural Spa. A short hike from the car park you’ll find a natural spa rockpool. The surrounding rocks shelter the inlet from large bustling waves. The blasting surf acts as a natural massage coming through the cracks. For any of you daring individuals, try your hand at a spot of shallow cliff jumping. Do so with caution, there have been a few unfortunate accidents.
Not far from the natural spa I visited Canal Rocks. A series of granite rocks taking its name from the narrow channel between the rocks. Formed over time from the coastal waters heavily eroding the granite. Visit this attraction early as it’s an extremely popular area. I wouldn’t recommend swimming here as the current is strong and waves extravagant.
Margaret River itself is synonymous with award winning wines, world famous surfing breaks and luxury escapes. One of the main reasons to visit Margaret River is the wine. Most of Australia’s best wine comes from this area. Wineries here tend to be more of a casual affair as many of them are family owned. I chose a local winery tour ‘cheers’ which gave me a great taste for the region. I didn’t want to leave the friendly haven of Margaret River. Staying at Big Valley Campgrounds couldn’t have been any more enjoyable and laid back. I fed the pet lambs, walked the farm, ate, drank and met great people.
A short distance from Margaret River is Hamelin Bay. Clear blue water, sparkling white sand and an abundance of friendly wild stingrays. Where else can you swim with wild stingrays? In this protected are the rays have become so used to people they swim terrifyingly close to see if tourists have any fish to feed them.
Elephant Rocks and Green Pools are two of the prettiest beaches you will ever lay your eyes on. Park at Greens Pool and walk around to Elephant Rocks to enjoy the view. As it’s name suggests, Elephant Rocks looks exactly like a herd of elephants, paddling in the shallow waters situated in William Bay National Park. Elephant Cove is amazing to visit as it is not easily accessed, and many choose to stop at the lookout rather than venture down the stairs onto the beach.
It was a privilege to discover how incredibly beautiful and unique Esperance is, it has some of Australia’s whitest sand beaches. Esperance has been high on my bucket list for quite some time, I was blown away. For those that don’t know, Esperance is the gateway to Cape Le Grand National Park, home to Lucky Bay, the famous beach with kangaroo. It really was an incredible place to experience. The surrounding National Parks are scenic wonders. The isolated location means that it is never too busy. Forget the East Coast of Australia. This is where it’s happening!
• Cape Le Grand National Park
The town of Esperance is surrounded by epic stretches of beach, but the best of the scenery is to be found just a short drive along the coast within the Cape Le Grand National Park. The outdoor opportunities are endless with camping, fishing and hiking to name a few.
- Lucky Bay
Lucky Bay is one of the most impressive areas in Cape Le Grand National Park. This long, wide bay is fringed by a white beach and granite outcrops. A resident population of kangaroos have made their home on the beach.
- Frenchmans Peak
262 metres in height, however, it’s a domineering sight. Almost vertical in shape and a difficult hike at that. The grade 5 hike soon became a scramble over loose rocks and dodgy ledges to reach the summit. Not much scares me but my heart was in my mouth! A little pep talk from Conor and I swallowed my fears. The views from the peak were breathtaking.
- The Great Ocean Drive
Jump in the camper van and enjoy an epic journey around the Esperance coastline. Few famous drives can match this in terms of beauty and rawness.
- Lucky Bay Brewing
In need of a cool refreshing drink after all the sightseeing? Head to Lucky Bay Brewing, the locally famous brewing company. A small cosy microbrewery, that brew craft beers using locally sourced ingredients.
The final stop on our incredible road trip was Hyden, the closest town to Western Australia’s Wave Rock. This world-famous rock, a granite cliff, standing at 15 metres high and 110 metres long, is shaped like a huge wave.
Western Australia exceeded all my expectations and more. It’s simply a must do. Now it’s your turn to do the ultimate road trip of Western Australia …. drive on!